Bill safeguarding sanctity of Sabbath gets first nod at Knesset

A bill safeguarding the Sabbath as a day of rest in Israel received lawmakers’ initial approval.   

By: Aryeh Savir, World Israel News

The Knesset plenum on Tuesday voted on an amendment to the Hours of Work and Rest Law stipulating that before issuing permits to work on Shabbat, the Minister of Labor, Social Affairs and Social Services would be required to take into account Israeli and Jewish tradition.

MK Moshe Gafni of the United Torah Judaism party introduced the amendment. In the first reading, 50 lawmakers voted in favor of the legislation; 34 were opposed.

Under the proposal, the Minister of Labor would be empowered to define what work is permitted to take place on the Sabbath, the Jewish day of rest, based on a number of criteria, including the workers’ needs, the traditions of Israel, alternative solutions that would not require employing workers on Shabbat, as well as the level of harm caused to the public when considering granting permits for Sabbath work.

The bill’s explanatory paragraphs state that the prohibition on employing workers on Shabbat has two purposes: The first is the goal aspect of enabling workers to relax, and the second is the national and religious imperative of establishing the Sabbath as a day of rest in accordance with the State of Israel’s character as a Jewish state.

Coalition members belonging to religious parties introduced the bill, saying that the sanctity of the Sabbath day was under attack, pointing to increased construction over the weekend and several recent rulings by the High Court of Justice, which they say have eroded the Sabbath’s unique status.

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“This is not Israel’s tradition, but religious coercion,” according to Yesh Atid Chairman Yair Lapid.